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Perasha Shemot 5779

Home > Rabbi's Weekly Message > Perasha Shemot 5779

Perasha Shemot 5779

Friday, December 28, 2018 Author: Rabbi Shlomo Farhi

We were once a family.

Could you imagine that? This whole sprawling, varied, beautiful thing called "The Jewish People" was once just the Goldbergs or Cohens, or perhaps the Farhis or Tawils. There was a nameplate on the front door, and that was it. Abraham Abinu Tawil.

How did we become the Jewish Nation? What took a small family to the foot of Mount Sinai and charged them with a mission to save humanity by bringing out its humanity? This Light Amongst The Nations, this People Of The Book, was born in the unlikeliest of cradles. It was born of slavery.

Not in slavery but of it.

Let me take you back. Abraham is alone in a pagan world as the one champion of monotheism. God puts him through his paces, and Abraham emerges from all of God's challenges pristine, a Man of Complete Faith. 

God says to Abraham:
וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו אֲנִ֣י ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר הוֹצֵאתִ֙יךָ֙ מֵא֣וּר כַּשְׂדִּ֔ים לָ֧תֶת לְךָ֛ אֶת־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַזֹּ֖את לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ׃
Then He said to him, "I am Hashem who brought you out from Ur Kasdim to give this land to you as an inheritance."

The Man of Faith asks a question that sounds decidedly unlike a man of faith.

וַיֹּאמַ֑ר ה אלוקים בַּמָּ֥ה אֵדַ֖ע כִּ֥י אִֽירָשֶֽׁנָּה׃
"And he said, 'O Lord God, how shall I know that I am to possess it?'"

Hashem's response to this question is what leads the people down to Egypt.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לְאַבְרָ֗ם יָדֹ֨עַ תֵּדַ֜ע כִּי־גֵ֣ר ׀ יִהְיֶ֣ה זַרְעֲךָ֗ בְּאֶ֙רֶץ֙ לֹ֣א לָהֶ֔ם וַעֲבָד֖וּם וְעִנּ֣וּ אֹתָ֑ם אַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃
"And He said to Abram, 'Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.'"

After all he had experienced, ten great and formidable tests, including leaving his homeland, having his wife taken twice and even during the Akeida, he never asked any questions of God. Now this is what he's questioning?

It sounds like the punishment for his question was that they should not have an easy life. However, our Rabbis explain that in fact that was not what Abraham was asking. He was asking, I know that you are good for your word, Hashem, and that you would give me this land as an inheritance for my children. But what if my children would veer away from the path that I am setting for them? How can I know that they will stay true to you Hashem?

God's response is now illuminating. You should know that your grandchildren will become slaves in a land that is not theirs. What Hashem is communicating is that the proof they will stay faithful lies in the fact that they would become slaves. They would learn how to be utterly subservient to a master, never veering right or left from those words. And after that they will go out with great inheritance. They will leave with the gift of knowing what it means to be dedicated to something so much that His every word is law. And now they were ready to be Abadim LaHashem, servants of God.

Knowing what the missvot mean is beautiful, but what happens if the missvah is not all that easy? Maybe you'd rather not listen? What then? We need to do the missvot anyway! Our people became The Chosen People through becoming slaves for Pharaoh and having learned the lessons, swapping Pharaoh for Hashem. When they stood at Mount Sinai they were able to say to Moshe, "We will do, and we will listen", without even knowing what the Torah said! ֫Their ability to swear faithfully sight unseen is what got them the great inheritance of Torah. Only a slave could do that!

Our devotion and commitment must always stem from our sincere desire to do the will of our ultimate Master, the master of the entire universe. With that sincerity and devotion our family became a Nation, chosen to spread the light and wisdom of God upon the face of this beautiful earth.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi

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